Rhodopean Explorer – Sunday, May 25, 2019
The story of another adventure in Bulgaria begins to unfold here, with my second day. We are going to visit a legendary bridge, Dyavolski Most or Devil’s bridge, and will find many more amazing photo opportunities along the way.
The start of a new journey
I am back in Bulgaria, traveling through the Rhodope and Pirin Mountains with the photographer Evo Danchev. If you followed me along the Off the beaten track adventure from last year, you have heard that name before. Yes, I turned every stone over after returning back to Norway, to find some extra spare days to combine them into another holiday in Bulgaria. Now I am finally back. Of course, I got a little nervous just before I was to leave my home. Would things be as they were last year? Would Evo and I hit off again like that? Or would we end up finding that last year’s tour was a once in a lifetime thing after all? However, seconds after we met again at the airport in Sofia yesterday, it was as if I was never gone in the first place.
Let the adventure begin
Today our adventure starts right after breakfast. Evo has done all the planning, though the weather forecast might change our plans along the way. He hasn’t told me much about where we are going at all. So what do I know so far about our tour? Evo asked me to bring my sleeping bag, but said we would not have such an economical tour that we would need a tent. I know that some riding might be involved. And I am staying a few days at his place before we go on a proper road trip. But that’s what I know about the itinerary so far.
Photo stops along the way
We have barely left Evo’s village when I am in awe with the landscape again. Just when I start thinking about how much I love to be here again, we find a spot to stop and take some photographs. Yes, this is a proper photo stop. Not a “jump out of the car, click click, jump back in and ride on” stop. We take our time, chatting along and finding the compositions that we want of the lonely tree in the distance.
Evo, finding a turtle in the meadow, calls me over. Though our new-made friend does not sign a model release, he is going to be in our photos.
Before Mr. Turtle turns into a Ninja, we part ways with him and head-on toward the River Arda. Not without another stop to grab some sandwiches and Ayran for lunch. Ayran is a Bulgarian/Turkish yogurt drink, similar to the Indian Lassi, but without the added fruits. The Bulgarian yogurt is a little more sour tasting than the West-European ones, which makes this drink consisting of yogurt, water, and a dash of salt, delicious and refreshing.
River Arda and Dyavolski Most
Shortly after getting our supplies we are leaving the paved street behind and follow narrow, partly graveled roads to our first official photo stop of the day. How far can we follow this road before we should stop and walk the rest? We need a spot that will later allow us to turn the car around and get out again. So far there aren’t many people around. A few years back, and this spot was hardly known to anybody who wasn’t local. Back in those days the access would only have been by hiking a few miles through the woods, before you would reach the river and with it the gem we are looking for today. Now you could, at least in theory, follow the road all the way down. However, it is barely two cars wide, and there are plenty of natural speed bumps included.
Soon enough, Evo decides that it will be better for us to park “here” and walk the rest. He asks me to only grab my camera, while he takes our lunch and my tripod. We’ll leave everything else behind and set out to hike the rest of the way. At the bottom of the road, we find a little tourist shop, where one now has to pay a small entrance fee to the bridge.
We are not alone down here. Getting a photo of the bridge without any people on it will be close to impossible. However, there is the good old spot removal tool, that also can remove unwanted people from your images.
After paying the fee and taking a short lunch break in one of the huts along the river, it is time to find the first photo spot.
Dyavolski Most – Devil’s bridge
While I start photographing the bridge, Evo realizes that we could need my filters. So he decides to go back to the car and fetch them for me. Returning, he does not only carry my filters though. No, he also found the granola bars 😀 How could there be another tour through Bulgaria for Evo and me, without any Nuts and Granola bars after last year’s journey?
Devil’s bridge, history and legends
Dyavolski Most (Bulgarian: Дяволски Мост) translates to Devil’s bridge. The Bulgarian builder Dimitar constructed it, between 1515 and 1518, on top of the ruins of an older one. The original bridge, connecting the Aegean Sea with the Thrace Kingdom, dates back to the Roman Empire. Today, Dyavolski Most, with a width of 3.5 meters and a length of about 56 meters, is one of the largest of its kind in Bulgaria.
Why is this bridge called Dyavolski Most?
We are in the country of legends, so of course there are some stories about this bridge as well.
Dimitar and his deal with the Devil
In 1515 it seemed impossible to build a bridge in this location. So people claim, that Dimitar, the builder of the bridge, made a deal with the Devil himself. The agreement was such, that for the bridge to withstand the water’s powers, and to be risen in the first place, Dimitar would incorporate the shadow of his wife into the structure. This condition meant for Dimitar’s wife to die once the construction of the bridge was completed. The legend claims that you can to this day find the shadow of Dimitar’s wife in the bridge.
The girl’s escape
Another legend about this bridge tells the story of a girl or young woman being chased by four men. In her despair, when she arrived at the bridge, she decided to jump from it into the river. Once the four men came to that spot and looked for her in the river, all they could see was the Devil’s face. Scared they ran away. However, once the men had left, the girl climbed unharmed out of the water.
Other stories say, that you can see the Devil in the bridge’s reflection, or that there is a spot alongside it where you can see his footprint.
To this day, locals avoid crossing this bridge in fear of the Devil after nightfall.
Unfortunately for us, before we can have a look at the bridge’s reflection or even enter it, it starts pouring down. So instead, we head back to the car and get out of the area before the road turns so muddy and slippery that we get stuck. Getting out, however, is harder than it sounds. By now people have parked cars on both sides of the small road, and while we want to drive uphill others are coming down. Volunteers help to sort this out, so we get out, only a little slower than what we had anticipated. But at least without getting stuck in the mud.
The Horseshoe bend
The rain stopped sooner than what we could have hoped for. However, we are already on the way to our next location, when another photo stop presents itself. What else can you do but to stop for some photographs?
Soon enough we continue our journey. To reach our next photo spot we need to climb over a guardrail and get down a narrow footpath. However, we get rewarded with a phenomenal view across the river.
I don’t think I would have been able to get down this path last year. Well, you get nowhere if you don’t push your boundaries from time to time. However, am I going a little too far, when Evo points out another fabulous spot, and I try to make my way down there? Maybe one of the two of us is a little crazy? But who is that then?
What am I not doing for a photo that i want to take? Of course, it turns out that it is much easier to get down here, than what I anticipated in the first place.
Once more the rain sets in, and it is time for us to head back to the car and start our long drive home.
There are two options to go back home from here: the fast route or the scenic route. Evo lets me choose, and, of course, I opt for the scenic route. How could I miss out on that one, even if it takes longer? Scenic it is.
When a photo opportunity presents itself
Not long after, way before we make it to the intersection that would divide the scenic from the fast route, Evo spots another subject. A gentleman is riding on his horse. Is he be chance riding toward the river bend from which we are coming? Ans would he allow us to take his photograph? Both questions are answered positively. Well, not that I would understand a word from the conversation, but Evo turns the car, so obviously we are not ready yet to leave the area. This time we do not climb behind the guardrail, but run-climb the hill on the other side of the street instead.
Unfortunately, my camera decided to put itself into interval mode during the run, and I don’t recognize it right away. Suddenly, I am confronted with a camera acting very differently from what I expect. Only far too late, I figure out what the problem is. Well, I might be coming back here one day. Though the chance of meeting another rider happy to have his photo taken by both Evo and I is not very high.
On the scenic route
Finally we are back on the road again. I am still all in for the scenic route, after all who knows when I can come back? Slowly the day comes to an end and the sun starts setting behind the clouds. However, not without making another appearance in form of crepuscular rays.
Who could say no to another photo stop, when the scene is this beautiful? I don’t even have to ask for stops, nor does it ever end being fun. Was I really a little nervous just yesterday, before arrival, that things might not be as fun as they were last year? Thankfully, they are just as fun if not even more.
Following along the river gives us a chance for yet another photo shooting. This time I even remember to take care of the rule of thirds, at least for my second shot. That is not a rule that I would usually remember. However, upon reviewing my images Evo decides that he likes the first one best. Good nobody started hugging those rules in stone yet.
We arrive back home long after nightfall, and for me that means that I go straight to bed. Tomorrow there will be new adventures waiting for me.